Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Water and weirdness on Mars


Our Mars program has made two interesting discoveries.

SILICA-RICH ROCKS
So what, you ask? Because high concentrations of silica form under only two known conditions: a hot spring, or a fumarole of acidic steam. On earth, both areas teem with life. In other words, conditions on Mars were once favorable for supporting life.

"SPIDERS"
That's the name for multi-legged gullies like the one in the picture above, which radiate out from a central point.

Turns out the gullies are caused by carbon dioxide ice thawing and then flowing *uphill* to concentrate at the center, where they erupt in geysers, then freeze and fall back to the ground as carbon dioxide snow.

Just a reminder that, however Earthlike Mars might have been in the past, it sure isn't now.

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